This is the time of year when colds spread quicker than a red wine stain on a white tablecloth and "Silent Night" is something you sing about, but rarely experience, what with all the bed-shaking, coughing and hacking coming from the person lying in bed next to you.
I just got off the phone with a friend who's suffering from a severe head cold. In the midst of her Benadryl-induced stupor, she was attempting to finish her Christmas cards and advised me in all seriousness to use a hand sanitizer after I opened her card.
We're rightfully concerned about spreading germs but what if we were equally concerned about spreading good cheer? Being 'contagious' is usually considered a negative thing but there are positive connotations, too, like a 'contagious smile' or 'contagious enthusiasm.' Just as we 'catch' a cold, we can 'catch' a good mood.
Take the mall experience, for example – on second thought, forget the mall, you wouldn't catch me there this time of year (or any time of year for that matter) even if I had a $500 gift certificate to Saks. Let's take a trip to the grocery store instead, about 3-4 days before Christmas. It's amazing how grumpy everyone seems, especially if the cart in front of them is blocking their progress.
I take this as a personal challenge.
You know what I do? I whistle Christmas Carols, even though I'm not as good as this guy.
And like magic, the atmosphere transforms.
It's incredible; up and down the aisle frowns and grimaces melt into smiles – people stop and talk to me, or they glance over and say something like, "You're happy!" And guess what – I am! Instead of being just another task to endure and cross off a list, shopping can be a way to spread good will. But it's a choice.
So, between writing part one and part two, I went grocery shopping and I couldn't believe what happened. I'm in the frozen food aisle and suddenly I hear a woman hollering at the cashier – mean, derogatory, finger-pointing, threatening to call the Consumer Hotline, Channel 14 and Better Business Bureau kind of hollering. The manager tried to calm her down but this angry customer would not back off. She stomped out of the store, turned around, stomped back in and started right up again. The poor cashier just sat there, not saying a word.
Needless to say, by the time I made it to the check-out aisle, the cashier's line was backed up, so I headed to the other line, but I couldn't stop thinking about what had just happened. I glanced over and the customers in her aisle were quiet, not saying a word, just as if it had never happened.
As soon as I paid my bill I headed over there.
"I'm so sorry for all the abuse you just took," I said. She looked at me with a smile that lit up her face, shrugged and said, "Oh, it's alright."
Now, was what I did contagious? I don't know; but I felt better. I hope the cashier did, too.
THE LAST COURSE:
I hope you will consider spreading some Christmas cheer as you go about your holiday shopping the next two weeks. Before you head out of the house, try saying something like this:
"Lord, please help me to have your joy, your peace and your patience as I go about my errands. Remind me to think before I speak, to be grateful and to be a light in every situation. I thank you for all you've done for me and I pray that you would use me to help spread your joy to those who cross my path."